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Jeanette Kozlowski

World Sports Network Receives Backing from Industry Veteran

11 December 2008

When World Sports Network decided to enter the Asian market with full force, Valhalla Investments Inc. took immediate notice.

“The truth is, I’ve always been seduced by the size of the Asian gambling market,” Mark Blandford, director of Valhalla, told IGamingNews by telephone today. “The challenge for me has been to find a legal way of getting some exposure to that.”

By providing up-to-the-minute details on more than 400 sporting events spanning the globe on two sites -- one in English and the other in Chinese -- that’s precisely what the consumer sports Web site has set out to accomplish. The free content that makes up the site’s core includes odds from around the world, a live soccer score service, betting news and match statistics and trends.

“There is a demand in China for sports media and that is not really being filled at the moment,” Charles H. Gillespie, chief executive of World Sports Network, told IGN. “We’re filling the gap.”

On Thursday the Shanghai-based company with a staff of 25 announced that Valhalla Investments Inc. would be supplying it with the first institutional round of venture funding. As part of the deal, Mr. Blandford, founder and former executive director of Sportingbet, has become a director of the site.

“I think they are a very exciting company doing very brave things in a huge and very exciting market,” Mr. Blandford said. “It’s an investment which excites me a great deal simply because if we can get it right, and we can touch a nerve in that market, it’s going to be tremendous.”

The company, which launched its Web sites a little more than a year ago, said in a statement that it plans to use the funding to further develop content and initiate coverage of additional sports leagues such as the National Basketball Association. Currently World Sports Network focuses on soccer, and, more specifically European soccer with an emphasis in coverage on the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain.

“The point of this company is to really to try and create a popular sports media brand in China, and the Chinese are most interested in European soccer, so that’s where we started,” Mr. Gillespie said.

He said that the page views for both sites are in the “millions,” and that the company plans to use advertisements as a way to generate revenue, specifically targeting those of the bookmaker variety.

“The demographic that we attract is sports betting individuals, so monetizing that demographic with online bookmakers obviously works quite well in jurisdictions where it’s legal,” Mr. Gillespie explained.

The Web site currently lists sponsors under the “top online bookmakers” section with 888sport as a platinum sponsor, Bet365 as a gold sponsor, VC Bet as a silver sponsor, Intertops as a bronze sponsors and additional sponsors include Ladbrokes, William Hill and Bet10. Next to each sponsor tile, there’s a gold “Bet Now” button, which takes punters directly to that sponsor’s Web site.

The concept for World Sports Network began when Mr. Gillespie sought a way to tap into something other than the generally off-limits United States market. After a couple of weeks in Shanghai testing the waters, he decided to stick with the project.

“It’s a massive opportunity,” he said. “You’ve got a billion Chinese people who are obsessed with gambling and sports, and they’re becoming more obsessed with sports.”

Despite the Asian focus, Mr. Gillespie added that his company still drives a lot of revenue off the English-language site.

“So, it’s not purely a China play,” he said. “But, obviously, China is the long-term focus.”

World Sports Network Receives Backing from Industry Veteran is republished from
Jeanette Kozlowski
Jeanette Kozlowski